Trump Prepares Lifeline for Money-Losing Coal Plants

May 31, 2018 – By Jennifer Dlouhy in Bloomberg News 

AEP’s Rockport power plant has become uneconomic to operate of late but since it uses coal, a plan by the Energy Department is designed to use a World War 2 era regulation to make sure that it keeps operating even if it requires higher rates for customers just so Trump can keep his campaign promise to revive the coal industry. Photo © 2003 BlairPhotoEVV.

Trump administration officials are making plans to order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal and nuclear plants in an effort to extend their life, a move that could represent an unprecedented intervention into U.S. energy markets.

The Energy Department would exercise emergency authority under a pair of federal laws to direct the operators to purchase electricity or electric generation capacity from at-risk facilities, according to a memo obtained by Bloomberg News. The agency also is making plans to establish a “Strategic Electric Generation Reserve” with the aim of promoting the national defense and maximizing domestic energy supplies.

[Read the memo here]

“Federal action is necessary to stop the further premature retirements of fuel-secure generation capacity,” says a 41-page draft memo circulated before a National Security Council meeting on the subject Friday.

The plan cuts to the heart of a debate over the reliability and resiliency of a rapidly evolving U.S. electricity grid. Nuclear and coal-fired power plants are struggling to compete against cheap natural gas and renewable electricity. As nuclear and coal plants are decommissioned, regulators have been grappling with how to ensure that the nation’s power system can withstand extreme weather events and cyber-attacks

Although the memo describes a planned Energy Department directive, there was no indication President Donald Trump had signed off on the action nor when any order might be issued. The document, dated May 29 and distributed Thursday, is marked as a “draft,” which is “not for further distribution,” and could be used by administration officials to justify the intervention.

While administration officials are still deciding on their final strategy — and may yet decide against aggressive action — the memo represents the Energy Department’s latest, most fully developed plan to intervene on behalf of coal and nuclear power plants, pitched to the president’s top security advisers.

Energy Department representatives did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

Always-On

Trump administration officials who advocate taking action say they want to preserve nuclear and coal-fired plants that have fuel on site and provide reliable, always-on power capable of snapping back after intense storms and emergencies.

“Too many of these fuel-secure plants have retired prematurely and many more have recently announced retirement,” only to be replaced by less-secure, less-resilient natural gas and renewable power sources, the memo said.

Over dozens of pages, the memo makes the case for action, arguing that the decommissioning of power plants must be managed for national security reasons and that federal intervention is necessary before the U.S. reaches a tipping point in the loss of essential, secure electric generation resources. U.S. Defense Department installations are 99 percent dependent on the commercial power grid, one reason that electric system reliability is vitally important to national defense and homeland security, the memo asserts.

For two years, the Energy Department would direct the purchase of power or electric generation capacity from a designated list of facilities “to forestall any future actions toward retirement, decommissioning or deactivation,” according to the memo. The proposed Energy Department directive also would tell some of those facilities to continue generating and delivering electric power according to their existing or recent contracts with utilities. Continue reading

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Money pit or fuel hedge? In Midwest, it depends on who is paying

May 25, 2018 – by Jeffrey Tomich, E&E News. Editors note: Valley Watch, along with the Citizens Action Coalition, Save the Valley and the Hoosier Environmental Council, collaborating as the Indiana Clean Energy campaign worked tirelessly in the early years of this century to shut down the Clifty Creek facility that sits on the western edge of Madison, IN. We knew they were going to have to place controls for both Nitrogen Oxides and Sulfur Dioxide which would cost billions and it was our position then that this was money being wasted. But because  all the owners, Including Vectren and Duke had their hands in ratepayer pockets, both Democrat and Republican Administrations in Indiana allowed them to go forth. This story shows how our predictions were, once again, correct. 

When FirstEnergy Solutions Corp. sought bankruptcy protection this spring, included in the avalanche of legal filings was a motion to exit a partnership that runs a pair of 1950s-era coal plants on the Ohio River.

Clifty Creek power plant sits adjacent to Clifty Falls State Park, just outside Madison, IN. It serves no current useful purpose except to keep rates its owners charge higher than they need to be. File Photo © 2009 BlairPhotoEVV

The reason was clear: The 1,304-megawatt Clifty Creek plant in Indiana and the 1,086-MW Kyger Creek plant in Ohio are bleeding red ink and are a barrier to the financial turnaround of FES. Backing the plea was analysis from an expert, ICF International Inc. Managing Director Judah Rose, who forecast the company’s tiny stake in the venture would produce a $268 million loss over the life of an agreement to keep the plants running.A year earlier, Duke Energy Ohio submitted very different testimony concerning the same coal plants in another proceeding, this one before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

In that case, Duke asked regulators to require the utility’s 700,000 electric customers in southwest Ohio to subsidize the plants on the basis that they provided a hedge against volatile, rising natural gas prices.

Backing up Duke’s request was testimony from an industry expert: ICF’s Judah Rose.

How can two companies tell a federal judge that the 60-year-old coal plants are a financial albatross and simultaneously argue to utility regulators that the plants are a good investment for consumers? And rely on the work of the same consultant? The answer depends on who’s paying the bill.

Unlike industries vulnerable to disruptors such as Amazon.com Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc., electric utilities — even those in deregulated markets like Ohio — continue to press lawmakers and regulators to shield them from competition. And they’re doing so by playing on fears that letting plants shut down will lead to a shortage that will result in a price shock — or, worse yet, the lights going out.

Ezra Hausman, an electric industry consultant who has analyzed the plants’ economics, has a simpler explanation.

“They made a bad bet and they don’t want to live with the consequences,” said Hausman, a former vice president at Synapse Energy Economics Inc., who prepared a report on the plants for the Sierra Club last year.

So far, two Ohio utilities, American Electric Power Co.’s Ohio utility and Dayton Power and Light Co., have gotten approval from Ohio regulators to subsidize the plants in the name of stabilizing consumer rates until at least 2024.

Those decisions are being appealed. The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel is challenging the AEP order at the Ohio Supreme Court, and environmental groups have asked PUCO to reopen the Dayton Power and Light case. The Duke request is still pending.

Other disputes involving the same troubled plants are playing out before the Ohio Legislature and state Supreme Court, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. bankruptcy court.

Meanwhile, the group of seven Midwest utilities and electric cooperatives say they are contractually bound to run the money-losing plants for another two decades, until 2040, when each will be 85 years old.

Patriotic origin

The two plants weren’t always controversial. In fact, they were built to support the federal government during the Cold War — a bit of history that utilities continue to play up a half-century later.

The plants are operated by a utility consortium known as OVEC, or the Ohio Valley Electric Corp. The group includes a handful of investor-owned utilities as well as two generating and transmission cooperatives.

The companies run the plants according to terms of an intercompany power agreement, under which each “sponsor” company shares in the plants’ output and costs according to their ownership interest. The largest owner is Columbus-based AEP, which has about 40 percent interest through three utilities.

OVEC was founded in the early 1950s to supply power to the Atomic Energy Commission’s uranium enrichment plant in Piketon, Ohio. For 50 years, they quietly served that purpose until the plant closed and the contract with the AEC’s successor agency, the Department of Energy, ended in 2003.

The end of the relationship included a $97.5 million “termination payment” by DOE to OVEC to cover uncollected post-retirement and plant closure costs. Continue reading

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Mad as Hell

May 23, 2018 – Peter Finch in the MGM movie Network, 1976

42 years after the movie Network ran in theaters across America, we are now living its reality. Just watch and see how prophetic this movie was.

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The Decline Of U.S. Coal Power Looks A Lot Like Henderson, Kentucky

May 22, 2018 – by Ryan Van Velzer, WFPL-Lousiville.

Henderson Plant 2 is part of this complex on the Green River near Sebree, KY. In the background you can see the Alcoa and  Vectren’s Culley power plants.  File Photo © 2011 BlairPhotoEVV

Henderson, Kentucky’s coal-fired power plant provided among the lowest electricity rates in the country for its residents just two years ago, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But the country’s energy grid is undergoing a transformation and market forces are pushing older coal-fired power plants like Henderson’s into retirement, while alternatives like wind, solar and natural gas are taking its place.

For most of the last 50 years, Henderson — a small city on the Ohio River — has run on coal power. The coal is locally sourced: all of it comes from Western Kentucky coal fields from within a 30 miles radius, said Henderson Mayor Steve Austin.

“I grew up within a few blocks of the power plant. Plus, we had a coal burning furnace in the apartment house that we lived in and when you’d go out to your car it would have coal dust all over it,” Austin said. “It would blow off once you drove, but the coal dust was every place in the downtown area.”

The coal is burning a lot cleaner these days, but it’s not burning as often. In the last six months, Henderson began purchasing most its electricity on the open market, only turning on the plant generators when necessary, said Austin.

The city is kind of unique in that it owns its own power plant, Station Two, which went online in the early 1970s. Historically, it’s provided some of the cheapest electricity in the state.

The city pays the power company Big Rivers to operate Station Two. But earlier this month, Big Rivers cut its contract with the city, saying it was no longer profitable for it to keep running the plant.

Henderson historically has taken its cut of the power for the city and left Big Rivers to sell the rest on the open market. But right now, it costs about 33 times more to produce energy from Station Two than it does to buy it on the open market.

Big Rivers spokeswoman Jennifer Keach said the power company was running at a loss for several years, so it did a study that found “Station Two units are no longer capable of normal, continuous reliable operation for the economically competitive production of electricity.”

Now, Henderson has to decide whether it wants to continue running the plant without Big Rivers, or just close it down all together.

Coal Power In Decline 

All across the country, older coal-fired power plants are retiring. Continue reading

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Arctic sea ice maximum at second lowest in the satellite record

March 27, 2018 – by Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis – Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its annual maximum extent on March 17. This is the second lowest Arctic maximum in the 39-year satellite record. The four lowest maximum extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past four years. NSIDC will post a detailed analysis of the 2017 to 2018 winter sea ice conditions in our regular monthly post in early April.

Overview of conditions

Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent for March 17, 2018 was 14.48 million square kilometers (5.59 million square miles). The orange line shows the 1981 to 2010 average extent for that day. Sea Ice Index data. About the data||Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center|High-resolution image

Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent for March 17, 2018 was 14.48 million square kilometers (5.59 million square miles). The orange line shows the 1981 to 2010 average extent for that day. Sea Ice Index data. About the data

Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center
High-resolution image

On March 17, 2018, Arctic sea ice likely reached its maximum extent for the year, at 14.48 million square kilometers (5.59 million square miles), the second lowest in the 39-year satellite record, falling just behind 2017. This year’s maximum extent is 1.16 million square kilometers (448,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average maximum of 15.64 million square kilometers (6.04 million square miles).

The four lowest seasonal maxima have all occurred during the last four years. The 2018 maximum is 60,000 square kilometers (23,200 square miles) above the record low maximum that occurred on March 7, 2017; 40,000 square kilometers (15,400 square miles) below the 2015 and 2016 maxima (now tied for third lowest); and is 190,000 square kilometers (73,400 square miles) below the 2011 maximum, which is now fifth lowest.

In March 2017, we reported a new record maximum being set, with 2016 sliding to the second lowest, and 2015 the third lowest. In November 2017, we updated our calculation of the monthly average sea ice extent in the NSIDC Sea Ice Index, resulting in 2016 tying with 2015.

The date of the maximum this year, March 17, was five days later than normal compared to the 1981 to 2010 median date of March 12. Continue reading

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Cambridge Analytica-Trump’s Dirty Tricksters

March 20, 2018- Undercover with Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. An undercover investigation by Channel 4 News reveals how Cambridge Analytica secretly campaigns in elections across the world. Bosses were filmed talking about using bribes, ex-spies, fake IDs and sex workers. This two part video explains the nefarious underworld of politics in the USA and elsewhere. 

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Glyphosate linked to shorter pregnancies in Indiana women

March 16, 2018 – Environmental Health News –
Women with higher levels of the herbicide are more likely to have shorter pregnancies, according to a study of pregnant mothers living in Indiana’s Corn Belt. The consequences for their babies can be lifelong.

Glyphosate is used in the production of corn as a standard herbicide as in this field on the Kentucky/Indiana border in the floodplain of the Ohio River. Photo ©2018 BlairPhotoEVV


Women with high levels of glyphosate—the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer—were more likely to have a shorter pregnancy, according to a new study.

Shorter pregnancies can leave babies on a path to reduced learning and brain development. The new study is the first to study glyphosate in pregnant U.S. women and pregnancy length, and suggests exposure to the chemical is widespread and it may be setting some children up for a lifetime of challenges.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide—the most widely used herbicide in the world. About 300 million pounds are applied each year in the U.S. alone, with much of the application in the Midwest corn and soybean states.

The chemical has come under fire as it’s been linked to a host of health problems, including cancer, birth defects, damaged DNA, endocrine disruption and reproductive issues. There are currently hundreds of lawsuits from farmers and others claiming that Roundup gave them cancer. A federal judge in San Francisco is reviewing the science behind the chemical’s link to cancer.

In the new study, researchers tested 71 pregnant women in Central Indiana. They found more than 90 percent of the women have glyphosate in their urine, and women with higher levels of the chemical were more likely to have shorter pregnancies. The results were published last week in the journal Environmental Health.

They also tested the women’s drinking water—none of which had detectable levels of glyphosate. However, women who lived in rural areas had much higher levels.

“This suggests the inhalation of contaminated air or dust may represent another exposure pathway for higher urine glyphosate levels in rural areas,” the authors wrote.

Iowa and central Illinois, Indiana and Ohio make up the core of the nation’s corn belt, producing half of the nation’s crop.

Lead author, Shahid Parvez, an assistant professor and researcher at the Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health, said in addition to inhalation, exposure from foods is the most likely culprit. He said none of the women studied worked in agriculture.

“Even though this study was in Central Indiana, if diet is the route by which everyone is exposed this is not necessarily a regional issue but a national or global issue,” he said, adding that there was some evidence from a survey of the women that eating organic curbed their glyphosate levels.

Credit: USGS

Amy Cornell, president of the Agribuiness Council of Indiana, stood by the safety of glyphosate use in her state, which has more than 5 million acres of planted corn, and almost 6 million acres of soybeans, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More than 90 percent of U.S. corn, soy and canola are genetically modified to be glyphosate resistant.

Continue reading

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Breaking News – Prospects for two giant fertilizer plants in SW Indiana dim drastically

February 1, 2018- © John Blair, valleywatch.net editor. Editor’s note: Valley Watch has singularly opposed these plants since as early as 2012 when they were first conceived. 

Indiana Department Of Environmental Management employees open a public hearing for the Ohio Valley Resources hearing held at South Spencer High School on May 15, 2013. Last month, IDEM revoked the permit they originally issued. Photo: © 2013 BlairPhotoEVV

 

Earlier in the decade area residents were told they were going to have not one but two giant fertilizer plants built in the region. One in Mt. Vernon and one in Rockport, both already among the most toxic polluted communities on earth according to the EPA Toxic Release Inventory.

Those fertilizer plants were designed first to produce ammonium nitrate, the same chemical that Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City in 1996, killing hundreds including children. The end product was said to be considerably safer by the addition of liquid urea which makes ammonium nitrate more stable.

Midwest Fertilizer, the Mt. Vernon plant, ran into trouble early on because their primary sponsor was company named Fatima, a Pakistani business that was known to supply ammonium nitrate to use in Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) against American Troops in Afghanistan. Some public outcry over that was assuaged when  Indiana Governor Mike Pence gave his approval for Indiana Finance Authority officials to issue what were called “disaster bonds” to finance around $1.2 billion of the plant’s more than $2.5 billion cost.

It was reported that even though the Indiana Finance Authority would issue those “tax exempt” bonds under the county’s jurisdiction, the County and State would not assume any liability for the bonds and only the backers of the plant would be responsible for paying off the bonds issued by IFA.

In Rockport, a similar plant named Ohio Valley Resources was proposed immediately north of what was then the proposed Indiana Gasification plant (A $3.5 billion proposal that Valley Watch and our Allies, Citizens Action Coalition and Sierra Club defeated after an eight year battle). It was being promoted by an Illinois farmer who ended up partnering with a Chinese financial firm for several years.

In both cases, Valley Watch was alone in our dogged opposition to these plants because both of those communities already suffered from extraordinary toxic pollution from their existing industries. And it was well known that these large fertilizer plants are always huge toxic emitters in their own right, emitting on average over 8 million pounds of ammonia according to Valley Watch research.

Well, folks we have tremendous news for your health and environment. Both of these proposals are not likely to ever see the light of day even though the Indiana Department of Environmental Management fully issued permits for their construction and operation as far back as 2013.

In Midwest Fertilizer’s case, they were just dealt what is probably a lethal blow by the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS issued a Notice Of Proposed Adverse Determination which essentially means that they are not eligible for Municipal Tax Exemption under IRS rules. http://www.municreditnews.com/muni-credit-news-week-january-8-2018/

IRS’s ruling which Midwest can appeal removes the significant incentive of “Tax Exemption” that investors often seek, especially for such high risk projects that have been on the drawing boards for more than half a decade already.

In Ohio Valley Resources’ case, there was zero action on the plant after the plant’s sponsor lost its financial backing. It had its air and operation permit revoked in January because they failed to begin construction after even a couple of permit extensions.

Valley Watch has tracked and opposed these facilities since they were first announced in 2012. At that time, each of them claimed they would produced enough fertilizer to supply the needs of there midwest. There were other plants of similar size that actually got built. It is our understanding that at least one was built in Iowa making their claims specious unless they were being built for the export market and not the USA.

Valley Watch is proud to add these two facilities to the numerous battles we have won over the thirty seven years we have been in existence. We are a completely volunteer group that is dedicated to “protecting the public health and environment of the lower Ohio River Valley.” We now count our record at 37 and 4 which is remarkable for volunteer group.

We welcome you to stand proud with us as we continue our fights, the current one being a $2.5 billion coal to diesel plant proposed for Dale, Indiana that just recently submitted it’s Air Pollution Permit Application to IDEM which is under the direction of Indiana Governor, Eric Holcomb, who like Trump and Pence is dedicated to the promotion of coal in Indiana.

But that does not bothers us since we have taken on many much larger entities and won.

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This is not a hoax!

December 17, 2017, by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic

This video sadly speaks for itself. Ivanka Trump should be forced to watch this and then tell us she has done all she can to convince her father that Climate Change is REAL!

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Pollution Kills More People Than Anything Else

 

November 7, 2017-By James Conca in Forbes Magazine

AEP’s Rockport plant, a 2,600 MW behemoth located in Rockport, IN will not have to install scrubbers until 2028 under an agreement signed by several environmental groups and the EPA in 2013 leaving us as a “sacrifice zone” for all intents. Photo © 2013 John Blair

The most comprehensive report to date on the health effects of environmental pollution shows that filthy air, contaminated water and other polluted parts of our environment kill more people worldwide each year than almost everything else combined – smoking, hunger, natural disasters, war, murder, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

It’s no wonder then that the number of contaminated water-related deaths in Puerto Rico is expected to climb into the thousands.

In addition to the human tragedy, this pollution costs us well over $4 trillion in annual losses, or 6% of global GDP.

According to the study, 9 million people every year, one in every six premature deaths, are caused by diseases from toxic exposures in the environment. That’s 20 times more than all wars. Dr. Philip Landrigan, Dean of Global Health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the lead author of the report, noted, ‘There’s been a lot of study of pollution, but it’s never received the resources or level of attention as, say, AIDS or climate change’.

China knows this better than any other country. Over 300,000 people die each year from toxic emissions coming out of coal-fired power plants alone. And silica manufacturing and waste from computer chip and solar array manufacturing is a growing health problem.

In fact, poor countries in south Asia and in Africa sustain the majority of these pollution deaths. In many of these countries, especially India, pollution causes a fourth of all deaths, putting a huge burden on their developing economies. Even indoor burning of biomass in poor countries has become a global health epidemic. Continue reading

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Vectren near the bottom in nationwide “Customer Satisfaction” survey by J.D. Power

UPDATE: The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission granted Vectren everything they wanted, ignoring the evidence and facts presented by Valley Watch and Citizens Action Coalition. Rates will rise.

July 18. 2107- by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor (disclaimer- I own 198 shares of Vectren stock (VVC)

An Opinion

One would think that a major electric utility that can afford to pay its CEO almost $6 million per year and charges among the highest rates in the nation, would at least do well in “customer satisfaction.” Not so with Vectren Corporation, which ranked third from last in the J.D. Power 2017 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study. http://www.jdpower.com/press-releases/jd-power-2017-electric-utility-residential-customer-satisfaction-study

Already Vectren has huge electric rates for their residential customers that must subsidize the rates of large industrial customers as CEO Carl Chapman has stated to me personally, “our industrial rates are competitive.”

I responded, “Well, that pisses me off since myself and lots of other people struggle just to pay your high residential rates.”

Should I call it a subsidy? Vectren would likely say no but that is what it is residential customers pay just to have their meter read and lines maintained. Currently, they pay upwards of $.12/kilowatt hour, about twice what industrial customers pay. When the “Fixed Charge” is added in their rates can go as high as $1/kWh as happened at the Valley Watch office last month because we do everything we can to conserve and only used 18 kW but had a bill over $20 on our three phase meter that heats and cools our office.

Presently, Valley Watch and the Citizens Action Coalition are engaged in an effort to mitigate Vectren’s latest rip-off, a $514 million rate increase that will fall mainly on residential and small commercial customers due to a $13+ increase in the Fixed Charge which together with absorbent usage charges could make Vectren the highest ratepayers outside Hawaii in the nation. And for what? Updated, new and Mercedes style infrastructure that is hard to prove is even needed. Of course, Vectren claims that it is for safety and reliability.

CAC and Valley Watch have presented testimony in our challenge to their current increase which will most likely be ignored by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission since Vectren and the “official agency” The Office of Utility Consumer Counselor that is supposed to represent customer’s interests have already “agreed” on a settlement and did so prior to even hearing testimony from the public at the sham public hearing held May 2 in Evansville. Continue reading

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She Will Take It, She Will Take It Back, Someday-Pink Floyd

June 1, 2017 – by John Blair valleywatch.net editor

In anticipation of Stupid Donald Trump exiting the the Paris Climate Accord in a couple hours, I am posting this prophetic song written by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd ©1994 titled “She Will Take It Back, Someday.” The song and music video depicts chaos on the Earth and the destruction of mankind because we humans have failed to recognize the planet on which we live as our lifeblood. Enjoy while you can.

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‘First Protest in Space’ Slams Trump With Astronaut’s Famous Quote

April 30, 2017 by EcoWatch

As President Donald Trump takes aim at Earth science with his proposed NASA cuts, the Autonomous Space Agency Network (ASAN) has launched the “first protest in space.”

The independent space agency, which advocates for DIY space exploration, launched a weather balloon 90,000 feet above Earth carrying a rude tweet directed at Trump’s frequently used Twitter handle, literally taking the act of protesting the president to new heights:

“@realDonaldTrump LOOK AT THAT, YOU SON OF A BITCH”

The ballon lifted off on April 12, or Yuri’s Night, named for Yuri Gagarin, the first human to launch into space.

The missive was in reference to the words of the late Edgar Mitchell, NASA astronaut and sixth person to walk on the moon, who once said about his humbling experience in space:

“From out there on the Moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.'”

ASAN’s feat was also in solidarity with the upcoming March for Science on April 22, Earth Day.

In case you are wondering, it does not actually cost that much to send a tweet to space. The whole operation only set back ASAN $750 for two helium tanks, 160 cubic feet of helium, a camera and a balloon.

Trump’s reaction, if he were to see the suborbital slam, is sure to be priceless.

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Sabic Innovative Plastics adds “cogeneration” facility freeing up considerable Vectren capacity

April 26, 2017 – by John Blair, valleywatch.net editor

Sabic Innovative Plastics, (Formerly GE Plastics) in Mt. Vernon, IN has decided to partially wean itself from the Vectren grid by building their own electrical and steam generation plant onsite. Their action frees up considerable capacity for Vectren, which still provides back up electricity for the giant plastics manufacturing facility east of Mt. Vernon.

Sabic has completed their 80 Megawatt steam and electric generating plant at their manufacturing facility east of Mt. Vernon. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held 4/26 although the plant has been in testing mode for several months. ©2017 BlairPhotoEVV

For years and prior to the construction of the cogeneration plant, Sabic burned coal to generate steam used in the manufacture of a broad range of plastics including Lexan and Ultem. Sabic claims the cogeneration plant will create substantial environmental improvements in the region including a 35% reduction in Carbon Dioxide emissions and a 43% reduction in their “non-hazardous” waste primarily consisting of coal ash which previously had to be landfilled offsite. Sabic officially stopped using coal in January of this year.The cogeneration unit is fueled with natural gas from a new thirty mile pipeline which transverses the Ohio River running from Robards, KY.

One interesting fact we learned today was that the plant has about 25% higher generating capacity in the winter than in the summer due solely to ambient air temperature. In the winter, the plant is capable of producing more than 100 Megawatts while summer capacity is rated at 80 megawatts. 

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held 4/26 to celebrate the opening of Saber’s 80 MW CoGeneration facility. © 2017 BlairPhotoEVV

The plant originally began operations in 1960 by General Electric Company to produce a single product, Lexan but was purchased by Sabic in 2011.

In November, Vectren announced the pending retirement of their Warrick County facility Culley 2 as well their Posey County AB Brown plant, a move partially facilitated by the construction go the cogeneration plant.

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It’s Time to Give Air Quality the Attention It Deserves

March 22, 2017 – by Bob Henson in the Wunderblog of Weather Underground.com

Each day of every year, a quiet disaster unfolds in households and hospitals across the world. More than 10,000 lives are lost worldwide every 24 hours as a direct or indirect consequence of poor air quality. Bad air takes its toll quietly, with no need for the oversized drama of a hurricane or tornado. Sometimes air quality becomes so dangerous that it can’t be ignored. Much of the time, though, dangerous air goes about its dirty work with little attention from policymakers and the public.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has dubbed air pollution “the world’s largest single environmental health risk.” It is high time we treated the life-threatening aspects of dirty air, and the life-sustaining properties of a clean atmosphere, with the full appreciation they ought to have. 


Figure 1. Los Angeles, CA, shrouded in late-afternoon smog as viewed from the Hollywood Hills. Griffith Observatory is at far left. Image credit: Diliff/Wikimedia Commons

Here at Weather Underground, we are taking steps in this direction by bringing air quality sensors into our 250,000-strong network of personal weather stations. We believe there is great power in being able to measure the quality of the air in one’s own neighborhood and to share that information with the world at large.  

We are also ramping up our coverage of air pollution issues here at Category 6. Along with occasional guest authors, Jeff Masters and I will be exploring the many facets of air quality, including its effects on people and ecosystems and how it intersects with both weather and climate. For example, Jeff will soon be posting an overview of the health hazards posed by poor air quality. This topic was highlighted on March 6 by a distressing report from the World Health Organization: Each year, respiratory infections linked to indoor and outdoor air pollution and second-hand smoke take the lives of some 570,000 children under the age of 5. That’s roughly 10% of all deaths in that age group each year.


Figure 2. Schoolchildren in Delhi, India, wore masks as schools re-opened on November 10, 2016, after three days of closure due to severe smog. Image credit: Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images.

For both children and adults, the air indoors can be just as dangerous as the air outdoors. Each year more than 4 million people die prematurely as a consequence of household air pollution—largely the result of inefficient, smoke-belching cookstoves that are used routinely in developing nations. This toll is even higher than the WHO’s estimate of 3 million premature deaths a year from outdoor air pollution.

Even the most pristine places can be touched by the global spread of air pollution. In Antarctica, scientists have found traces of lead trapped within ice cores. Using isotopes (variations in the number of neutrons within an element), researchers were able to track the heavy-metal pollution to industrial activity in Australia as far back as the late 1800s.

Today, as much as 25% of the sulfate and mercury pollution along the U.S. West Coast comes from emissions from coal-fired power plants in China. These pollutants take just five to eight days to cross the Pacific on the prevailing upper-level westerly winds.


Figure 3. Motorcyclists ride through thick smog on January 9, 2017, in Zhengzhou, China. The nation’s Central Meteorological Observatory issued a yellow alert for smog in Zhengzhou on Sunday night, January 8. Visibility dropped below 50 meters (160 feet) in parts of the city on Monday morning. Image credit: VCG/VCG via Getty Images.

Continue reading

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